Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), one of the ten House members who filed a complaint in federal court against President Barack Obama for taking military action in Libya without seeking congressional approval, says America cannot police the world.
“We can’t continue to act on a variety of premises as a basis for American intervention around the world,” Johnson said on MSNBC. “There are over 200 countries in the world and most don’t share our principles, and it’s simply not possible, manpower-wise or financially, to act as the world’s policeman.”
This anti-interventionist sentiment is echoing from all sides of the political spectrum, including fiscal conservatives and pacifist liberals. Some even claim that the American isolationist theory is now on the rise. However, this inevitably begs the question: If America cannot “police the world,” who can?
Before we go further, I want to make a distinction. I do not like this “world police” term; it is inaccurate. A world police already exists, INTERPOL. A more accurate term for the entity we are talking about is what I call a Global Standing Army (GSA).
Many critics argue it is simply unfair for the burden of a GSA’s duties to fall on one country, and they have a point. Sacrifice and wealth is disproportionately divided when one country has to pick up most of the slack. The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, for example, have cost the U.S. over 6,000 military casualties and a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017, when including interest costs, according to a 2007 CBO report.
The closest international force in existence that serves as a GSA is NATO. But, as Robert Gates highlighted during one of his final speeches as U.S. Secretary of Defense, NATO is struggling to find its identity in the 21st century. Officials could not even find a clear, universally agreed upon strategic concept during the summit in Lisbon last November.
The problem is that NATO is turning into a military alliance without a coherent vision of an external threat. While members like the U.S., Britain, and Canada still see NATO as a GSA in the 21st century, Eastern European countries want NATO to focus on resurgent Russia. Western Europe, however, does not view Russia as a hostile power. Quite the opposite, Germany, France, and Italy have been striking deals with Russia to swap military technology for discounts on energy. Moreover, it is no secret the U.S. is the only country that has retained its levels of defense spending since the Cold War. In fact, the U.S.’s military expenditure is more than the next 20 countries combined. In other words, NATO is becoming the victim of divergent interests and declining post-Cold War defense budgets.
What we need is a GSA separate from one country’s control and serves to intervene for humanitarian and world security purposes. To put it simply, the UN needs its own enforcement arm to carry out its resolutions instead of being dependent, particularly the U.S.
For instance, speeches have been made for years pleading the world to intervene and stop the genocide in Darfur. The UN has passed numerous resolutions against the Sudanese government for its atrocities, but nothing can be done without enforcement.
As for financing, in 2009, INTERPOL’s income was €59 million, of which 82% comprised statutory contributions by member countries. I propose a similar financing model for a UN GSA. All countries, including the 187 members of INTERPOL, the UN, and even the IMF, would need to contribute and participate.
There would still be plenty of details to be worked out in a proposed GSA concept, from logistics and financing to training and technology, but I think we have reached the point where such concepts need to be addressed. The entire world has an interest in global stabilization and prevention of crimes against humanity, but the U.S. is strapped for cash and manpower.
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